International Superstar Soccer '98
With the ISS '64 phenomena behind us, it's onto pastures new with the sequel to Konami's hit football game!
With all the World Cup hype dying down, and the start of the new season kicking off, what better way to prime yourself for your team's next televised game than with a long stint on ISS '98?
There seem to have been a few versions kicking about the office in recent months - ISS 64 (no longer up to scratch); World Soccer 3 (long since retired); and the import ISS 2, Jlkkyou World Soccer: World Cup France '98 (recalled from loan) - but no footie game has managed to rekindle the interest of the console area... until now.
Jumpers For Goal Posts?
On the surface it seems that little has changed, apart from enhanced graphics. Sure, you'd expect the menus to look different and the music to be jazzed up, but the pre-match presentation is its same reliable simple self, with a little more colour thrown in for good measure.
Let's face it, you could have the best presentation in town, with an official licence to-boot (ring a bell, EA?) but it will eventually suffer at a later date, either with gameplay, graphics or Hod knows what else. So it's no surprise that fans of the ISS series won't give a flying Klinnsman about the eye-opening cut-scenes and actual player names that come as standard with the EA Sports titles.
Foregoing the debate about presentations, there are many inviting options available to choose from the main menu; a nice quick 'Open Game'; 'Penalty Kick' practice (you listening, Batty?) and the marvellous idea of match 'Scenarios', where you replay a segment of a historic game and are given the task of pulling a win out of the bag with the odds stacked heavily against you.
But with the constant reminder of England's misfortune it was straight into the International Cup to set things straight. You start off with the Regional Qualifiers - if you're England you are pitted against other European teams; if you're Nigeria you will be placed with other African teams, and so on. With the at - or in this case, a Lucozade bottle. If you've ever played the original ISS, you'll remember the long, agonising delays over bookings and replays. This time, they have been removed to save hair loss and valuable time.
The general gameplay may seem very similar to its predecessor, but seasoned veterans will soon uncover all the intricacies that make this a true champion of football sims. For instance, there is a larger variety of scoring goals, so it is now possible to power home high speed Bergkamp screamers from 30 yards, as well as delicate Beckham lobs over the keeper, all with the improved aftertouch. With two new automatic replay views, you can see the magic all over again before it spins off to the side of the screen, just like on Sky Sports.
The spectacular has also undergone the developer's knife with overhead kicks, scissor kicks, headers and volleys all much easier to pull off than before.
Although the overwhelming number of player actions (both defensive and offensive) may seem daunting to say the least, you soon find yourself running down the wing, performing daring heel flicks, feints, step-overs and one-two passes, before making an inch perfect cross for your rising forward to nut the ball in the back of the net - phew, what a mouthful. Which is something you'll give the ref on many occasion!
The player AI has also been given the once-over with more intelligent runs, movement off the ball and split-second reactions. A good example of this are rebounds off the keeper, where both the home and away players respond realistically to the situation, depending on their abilities and ratings.
In addition to the new moves and improved AI, as well as more stadiums and camera angles, extra touches have been included to make the game more enjoyable. Players no longer calmly stand around while getting booked for senseless tackles ("But ref, he bloody dived!") Instead, they now adopt a more hostile approach, requiring the sharp intervention of a team mate to prevent further prosecution from the ref. But the law doesn't stop there - if you're competing in a tournament or league, the accused will suffer a suspension, depending on the card shown!
If medical attention is needed for an injured player, the ground's medical staff rush on with the magic sponge, and if a stretcher is needed that too, will be provided - although you will never see the injury in full gore effect, just the sissy rolling about like a wounded wildebeest. And if said wounded (or other players) should need to be substituted, then the fourth official will hold up an LED light board to indicate the player(s) swapped.
Set pieces have also been tweaked. Instead of the usual single power bar on the ground, you now have to deal with an additional one used for choosing the ball's height. Before you had the opportunity to score every time from a free kick, but now it's much harder to judge the height and power of your strike. This thankfully prevents countless free kicks from being scored within a single game - in addition to the resulting effing and blinding.
You've also got the option to change the kick taker (as in all set pieces) which is easy to find by looking at the set piece button explanations - very handy indeed, particularly for all you ISS virgins out there! Another wonderful aspect to these revamped free kicks is the option to play a quick pass to your team mate to catch out the opposition.
The quality of the commentary is also a major improvement over the madly enthusiastic commentators that battered our ears in ISS64, as it's from none other than Match Of The Day's calm, cool and collected Tony Gubba.
They Think It's All Over...
There is one final ingredient to the game, which comes in the form of the create-a-player mode. This gives you the chance to create players of your choice from 80 face/hair styles, as well as creating their heights, statistics and yes, even their dominant kicking foot. They're then ready to be introduced into the high profile life of international football, so at last you yourself can finally play for your country!
In all, there are more changes (all for the better we might add) in ISS'98 than Manchester United strip changes in a season - well, almost!
There really is no downside to this game, and at the fantastic price of 40 quid, minus a penny, there is no excuse for saving your money. Konami have finally have achieved the perfect football game, and the more players that get involved, the better it becomes. We now look forward to the much anticipated re-emergence of the grudge matches that occur around feeding time!
2nd rating opinion
For my money, the original ISS 64 had remained unsurpassed since it arrived two years ago, and it's only fitting that Konami themselves should trounce their own legendary game. This is faster, smoother, packed with loads more details and features, and plays even better. It's the best football video game ever, so buy it now!
International Superstar Soccer '98 DownloadsInternational Superstar Soccer '98 download
The best football game written for any machine -ever! Sheer soccer style that you'll be playing for years to come.
Enhanced and updated from the original game, and now more than eve, the finest football game in the world.
The finest football sim on any format and a worthy sequel.
Because bending a 30-yard free kick past David Seaman fills me with a wonderful sense of pride. Because with a little bit more time on the training ground, I might actually beat Tim without having to sneakily turn his goalie down. Because it's the best football game ever.
Football games? My thing, they are. But, I'd never played anything like ISS64. And, equally, I'd never played anything like this brilliantly improved sequel. It's the smoothest, easiest, hardest, fastest, most ingenious football game you'll ever play. On any machine. Get it in...
Don't let anyone tell you that there's a better football game than this. Even without a licence and a ludicrous league, ISS '98 is still miles ahead of the PlayStation's best, and laughs openly in the face of World Cup 98 and the last FIFA. As a sequel, '98 just gets better the more you play it. Love it.
I'm rubbish at it - as Martin'll testify but ISS '98 is truly superb. Never has the feel of football been so accurately represented on a console.
Enter these cheats on the title screen Big Head mode: Bottom-C x2, Top-C x2, Right C, left-C, Right-C, Left-C, B, A, press and hold Z, while holding Z press Start.
Extra Teams: Up, Top-C, Up, Top-C, Down, Bottom-C, Down, Bottom-C, Left, Left-C, Right, Right-C, B, A, press and hold Z, while holding Z press start.
Question: Can you make your players 'dive' in ISS 98. I've seen the computer players do It.
Answer: As far as we're aware, you can't deliberately make your player take a fall. Of course, if they were drinking as much as Gazza, you wouldn't need to.